Stealing blatantly from the movie Grease, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary, I’m changing some lyrics to “Summer Nights” to reflect this week’s activity in the robotics and AI space – Summer funding, had me a blast, summer funding, happened so fast.
Just like Sandy and Danny, companies and investors are building relationships that hopefully last beyond the summer. VCs and private equity firms are telling robotics companies – “You’re the One that I Want”, albeit without having to sing at a carnival or wear tight leather pants. Tell me more!
Today, we’re highlighting 15 transactions from recent weeks, but you can always track more investments in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type. If you’re an RBR Insider, don’t forget to check out the Q2 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investment trends for the past three months. It’s free for subscribers to the Insider program.
Computer vision remains hot commodity
Last week we highlighted several companies using machine vision or computer vision to assist with technology platforms such as autonomous vehicles or industrial applications. Some additional companies that use technology to help computers or other devices “see things” in the real world announced new funding recently.
Late last week, Israeli company AnyVision announced securing $28 million in Series A funding, led by German multinational company Bosch. The company develops computer vision and artificial intelligence technologies for the “recognition space”, which includes not only facial recognition, but body recognition and object recognition. The company says its technology “enables any camera to become smarter by indexing and analyzing everything the sensor sees.” The company recently teamed up with NVIDIA to create facial and body recognition technology for smart cities through the company’s Metropolis initiative.
Scandit, which develops a platform for mobile computer vision, barcode scanning, and augmented reality, announced raising $30 million in Series B funding this week, led by GV (formerly Google Ventures). The Zurich, Switzerland-based company said it will use the new funding to accelerate global expansion, and further develop its platform to give any camera-equipped device the ability to scan everyday objects that goes beyond barcode scanning. The system allows objects “to be identified, tracked, and superimposed with relevant digital information without requiring them to have a computer chip embedded or be connected online.” Scandit is working with companies in the retail, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, and healthcare markets.
In the video below, Scandit shows how its technology could be used with multiple devices along the supply chain as a jar of jam moves from the creator’s location to the warehouse, grocery store, and a customer’s house.
What’s interesting about the solution is how it can be used in multiple markets and scenarios – it’s not just a retail inventory solution, it can be utilized by field service workers checking on equipment, or parcel delivery companies tracking packages (although they already have systems in place to do this). It’s also interesting that the technology can be used across multiple devices, such as smartphones, tablets, drones, and robots (see top picture, for example). It will be interesting to see whether Scandit can stay focused on the markets that can benefit most from its system without falling to the temptation of serving multiple markets.
In China, reports came out this week that Megvii, the developer of the Face++ facial recognition system, was looking to raise at least $600 million from investors, including Alibaba. This would seem to indicate a response to the large investments made by SoftBank into SenseTime, which also develops facial recognition systems.
Another mobile robot joins the warehouse game
Techcrunch reported this week that Gideon Brothers, a startup from Croatia, raised $765,000 in funding led by TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, and ex-Wired U.K. editor David Rowan. The company was founded in 2017 and includes more than 40 deep learning and robotics experts, the article stated. The company’s robots includes 3D computer vision and deep learning that make them aware of their environment and to operate autonomously. The company is looking to have the robot handle large pallets in the manufacturing, warehouse, and commercial space.
With so many other mobile robot companies in the warehouse and logistics space (one venture capital source told us there were at least 30 companies doing this), it will likely be a challenging road for Gideon Brothers to navigate.
Healthcare companies funded for robotic, IoT-based devices
OrthoSpin announced securing a $3 million investment round from Johnson & Johnson Innovation to help further development of its smart, robotic external fixation system for orthopedic treatments. The company said that external fixation devices are common treatment for bone lengthening, setting complex fractures, and correcting deformities, but they often require manual adjustments by patients on a daily basis. The complicated training for patients and adjustment errors and non-compliance often results in poor outcomes, OrthoSpin said. The robotic system makes pre-programmed adjustments automatically and continuously, without the need for patient involvement. Software lets doctors chart a patient’s progress, and lets them know when adjustments need to be made.
Another health-related company, Snap40, received $8 million in seed funding this week to help continue development of its health monitor device. The device provides vital sign monitoring and accelerated alerting, allowing patients to remain at home but also providing a vital link with doctors.
Autonomous vehicles continue its development road – in China
Two Chinese companies received funding to continue its development efforts in creating fully autonomous vehicle systems. Zhixing Technology (iMotion.ai), announced a $14.6 million investment by Shenzhen Guozhong Ventures to help continue development of its autonomous driving systems. The company said it will use this funding round to develop automatic driving systems in the L3 and L4 autonomous vehicle space, and to support mass production projects by automakers. The company’s systems include sensor data algorithms, autopilot planning decision-making algorithms, vehicle dynamic control, and other software and hardware capabilities.
Another Chinese company, Wayz.ai, this week announced an $80 million Series A funding round from undisclosed investors. The company develops high-precision, high-definition mapping and real-time location based on cameras and sensors, aimed at developers of autonomous driving vehicles. Like iMotion.AI, Wayz.AI is focusing on providing technology for vehicles with Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy.
In the U.S., the Navy awarded Boeing division Insitu a $10.8 million modification for the procurement of 27 ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems, 37 payloads, and spares to support the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Work will be completed by December 2019, the Navy said.
In other military news, we discovered an earlier contract from July in which the U.S. Navy awarded Orbital Sciences Corp. a $52.9 million contract to build 18 GQM-163A Coyote supersonic sea skimming target base vehicles for the U.S., Japan, and Israel. The vehicles are used as an affordable target that simulates supersonic sea-skimming and other anti-ship cruise missiles, including the French Exocet and Russian-made SS-N-22 Sunburn models. The Coyote target drones are non-recoverable aerial targets that can fly at speeds of Mach 2 or greater at altitudes of 13 to 66 feet above the ocean’s surface.
Wrapping up the rest in summer funding
Now that I’m terrified of these anti-ship missiles, I think we need to wrap up this week’s roundup, including some AI-related and IoT-related announcements:
- Xage Raises Funding for Blockchain-based IIoT Platform
- Goldman Sachs Division Funds Cogito for AI-Based Call Service System
- Concrete Sensors Grabs Funding for IoT-based Concrete Monitoring
- Indus.AI Earns Seed Funding for AI-based Construction Software
- Vyasa Analytics Gets Loan From MassDevelopment Fund
That’s it for this week, enjoy the last few days of July! Just remember, dear reader, that I’m “Hopelessly Devoted to You” in bringing the best of the robotics and AI investments.